The Swiss voted yesterday in a referendum on the deportation of ‘foeasure proposed by the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which would expel foreigners convicted of certaireign criminals’. Over 52 percent of voters opted to support the mn crimes, including murder, rape, armed robbery, drug and people trafficking, and benefit fraud. Their re-entry would be barred for 20 years and there would be no right to appeal the expulsion. Amnesty International has strongly condemned the decision, claiming it breaches international human rights standards.
In Switzerland direct democracy has teeth. The public's decision is irrevocable and will be implemented. Whether you are for or against the deportation idea in principle, we should ask why these kinds of measures are popular with so many people across Europe.Why is the image of a single black sheep being kicked out of a white herd so poignant (it was one of the SVPs referendum campaign posters)? Some people instinctually want to protect the black sheep, while others cannot envisage a way that it can live happily with its white cousins. How would the British public react to such a question? Are we a nation that wants to expel the black sheep? What is a black sheep anyway, is it someone of a minority race, religion or political perspective, is it a criminal, is it some of these things combined? Many of us do not see the world in black and white.
Brits advocating homegrown direct democracy initiatives must ponder the political questions the Swiss example raises. Was this really an issue that average Swiss people cared deeply about? How can we prevent direct democracy from being used as a party political tool?